Initially I had considered not writing about the Flint lead-water crisis. As soon as the media took hold of it, the story of the poisoned drinking water was everywhere–from Facebook to CNN to local news: wherever I turn, I see it.
But hearing about it so much is not such a bad thing. It’s a clear reminder of how very important safety is when discussing clean drinking water. The problem with Flint, Michigan, is that the damage has already been done. The lead pipes have long since leached lead from acidic water (with dangerous levels of lead being discovered in April 2014, and a state of emergency not announced until nearly 2 years later) and the community of Flint is left wondering who will be held responsible.
“What could have been done differently?” the community is likely wondering. Unfortunately for the population of Flint, it’s too late to do anything about the lead that was already in their water. In the case of Flint, Michigan, lead-poisoning in the water was a wide-spread issue. However, often times lead in water is a much more localized issues–such as an old school or old homes. So, what are precautions you can take as an individual?
“Heating or boiling your water will not remove lead.” -CDC
If you live in an older home, consider the acidity of your water. The more acidic it is, (lower PH) the likelier your galvanized pipes will leach lead.
Consider flushing older taps with cold water for a full minute before using the water for drinking or cooking if the water hasn’t been turned on in several hours. Choose to not use hot tap water for drinking or cooking as it’s likelier for hot water to erode the pipes. It’s safe to use this water for cleaning or washing clothes. Consider that boiling water will not remove lead from the drinking water though.
Other steps you can take on a personal level might include reaching out to an EPA approved certified drinking-water laboratories, if you suspect there may be something wrong with your drinking water.
If you have one faucet that for some reason has galvanized pipes that you are more concerned about (such as the kitchen faucet) you can consider certain water treatment methods specifically designed to remove lead. These include reverse osmosis and carbon filters–these work on a one-per-faucet method, so it may not be a long-term solution.
In short, being aware of where your water lands as far as drink-ability helps reduce any chance of pollution of lead or other negative water contaminants. After all, with knowledge comes power–and in this case, that’s incredibly important.